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Topless Women OK in Public, NYPD Memo Reveals

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

As summer approaches, weather-appropriate attire is an absolute must, and on a hot sticky summer day in NYC, the dress code may call for you to be topless.

But it's not only the fashion police who will have to give you a pass. The boys in blue of the NYPD will also have to keep their cuffs in their pockets, according to a memo revealed in a topless woman's lawsuit.

The NYPD memo clarifies that being a shirtless woman is not an arrestable offense in New York City.

Public Exposure

To stay abreast of public nudity laws in the Big Apple, you need to know the statutes, specifically the one stating that women exposing breasts below the "top of the areola" was originally considered a crime.

However, New York's highest court decided in the early 1990s that this gender distinction was a violation of equal protection, and that men and women were all free to be topless without violating the law.

Though this titillating ruling has been on the books for more than 20 years, some NYPD officers are still arresting topless performers like Bronx resident Holly Van Voast, reports The New York Times.

'New' NYPD Orders

The unabashed Voast performs under the moniker Harvey Van Toast, a "topless paparazzo" character who was also arrested several times in 2011 and 2012 for public exposure, despite the court's ruling.

These charges have all been dropped, however, and the arrests have ceased, after higher-ups read this "no boob arrest" memo to NYPD officers ad nauseum during roll call, reports the Times.

While Gotham women are free to get this off their respective chests, this does little for members of the exposed genital and booty community, who still need to keep their pants on.

Nude but Not Lewd

So while NYC women are publicly free to let their areolas feel the UV kiss of the summer sun, being offensive or lewd in your birthday suit is still illegal.

Lewdness is like pornography, hard to legally define, but here are some standout examples of lewd conduct:

  • Public masturbation,
  • Public sex acts of any kind, and
  • Indecent touching of children.

Anything between that and simply displaying your god-given mammaries is a legal gray area. Still, NYC women should use their common sense before flashing their bosoms to a bus full of nuns.

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